Natural sweeteners honey and malt can provide extended shelf life and round out the flavor of many whole grain bakery products.

Functional flavor

Malt and honey perform several functions in baked goods’ formulations including assisting in browning and color, structure development, mouthfeel and shelf life extension.

“Bread, rolls and cereals will always be a sweet spot for honey,” Mr. Seiz said. “Those are the applications where we are going to get the most usage just because of the functions honey performs in those applications, not just the sweetness but also the mouthfeel and extending the shelf life.”

Honey is a natural shelf life extender in that it holds onto moisture. Moisture migration is a major aspect of staling, and honey’s affinity for holding onto moisture keeps it from moving throughout the product. Honey also has a high acidity, making it a natural mold inhibitor.

In the bar category, one experiencing growth and where honey is making inroads, the natural sweetener can also act as a binder.

“It does a great job of binding the ingredients together, especially if it’s a seed- or nut-dense bar,” Mr. Seiz said.

Color is another factor in formulating that both honey and malt extracts contribute to — one of their biggest contributions, actually. Honey aids the Maillard reaction, which is responsible for the browning that occurs when some products are baked. Most sugar-based ingredients assist with this reaction, and honey is no different.

Malt extracts also have an impact on the Maillard reaction and lend their colors to the finished product. The natural enzymes in malt extract enhance Maillard browning by liberating sugars and providing amino acids to products. While malt extract is used primarily as a dough conditioner, flavoring and sweetener, it also imparts its dark color onto whatever baked good it’s being used in. This allows bakers to eliminate caramel color from the formulation.

“In pumpernickel bread, black malt extract adds an aroma and smoother crust and reduces oven time,” said Jim Kappas, vice-president of sales and marketing for Malt Products. “Those are all functional benefits, and an additional benefit is that it actually adds a deep brown color. Caramel color becomes redundant when you use black malt extract, and you can clean up your label that way.”

Malt’s enzymes also help enhance dough development and contribute to the unique flavor profile, according to Mr. Bright. The enzymes promote the yeast in dough to be more active, which leads to increased gas production. This makes malt helpful in developing the crisp exterior and soft interior found in artisan hearth breads, bagels, pizza crusts and pretzels.

However, bakers need to be aware of the enzymatic activity of malt, Mr. Bright said.

“High levels of enzyme-active malt can contribute to gluten weakening during fermentation, resulting in smaller, irregular baked products,” he said. “In addition, high levels of naturally occurring enzymes may contribute to an overly moist, gummy crumb characteristic after baking.”  

AB Mauri’s line of malt products includes varying degrees of enzymatic activity.